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A Good Read About the Mexico-U.S. Connection

"Education a challenge in small Mexican community with strong ties to Dallas," an article that ran in The Dallas Morning News today, provides rich insight into the connections between the Mexican and U.S. education systems. The article tells how students literally move back and forth between the town of Ocampo in the Mexican state of Guanajuato, and Dallas. Some of the Dallas teachers see the Mexican children as lagging behind their U.S. peers academically. The Mexican teachers see that some of the students who have been to school in Dallas and then moved back to Ocampo have picked up some bad attitudes.

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The article made me nostalgic for the two-week trip that former Education Week director of photography Allison Shelley and I took in 2002 to report on schools in Oaxaca, Mexico. We enjoyed interacting with indigenous people, such as the Zapotec people.

I was really struck then by how the quality of public education available to students in Oaxaca varied tremendously. Students in the city seemed to receive a better education than in rural areas, but even in the city, the quality of education was much better at one school during the morning shift, when middle-class children attended, than in the afternoon shift, when children from low-income families used the building. During that afternoon shift, I observed the worst teacher I've seen in my life. She continually scolded a girl for not following an assignment correctly when it was obvious the girl—a 13-year-old who was attending second grade—couldn't read.

The Dallas article reports on a CONAFE (Consejo National de Fomento Educativo) school in Mexico as did we. It's a program that attracts teachers to rural areas with the promise that they'll receive funding to continue their education after a two-year stint of teaching.

The Dallas Morning News article notes that the variance in quality among Mexican schools is still a big problem. Of course, we also have equity problems in the United States, but it seemed that, in Mexico, people were more discouraged than were people in the United States that it was possible to remedy the inequity.


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